A phased re-opening of the Kelowna Family Y, H2O Adventure + Fitness Centre and the Downtown Y, beginning with health and fitness, will be determined in collaboration with the City of Kelowna and an announcement will be made as soon as possible. Learn more

When we first moved to Kelowna, my mom, dad and two sisters were sharing a one-bedroom hotel room and there was no space for me, so I lived out of a van on the street.

I was in a really bad spot — both emotionally and mentally. I had low self-esteem, was fighting depression and didn’t have the confidence to be independent or employable.

As a youth, I didn’t have anyone to look up to, talk to or ask for help or advice; I did not know where to turn. I ended up visiting the Kelowna Friendship Society, who mentioned that the YMCA offered an employment program called Youth Works.

I was accepted into the program right away. Many of the youth, including me, come to the program without the basic necessities of food, proper shelter and clothing so finding a job can often be the least of our problems.

I developed so much self-confidence by making friends, obtaining certifications and networking with employers, that I landed a job at Antico’s pizza.

Gaining employment has changed my life. I now have stable shelter and can afford healthier food. With help from my mentor in the program, I was also granted bursaries that will allow me to attend Okanagan College this September to become a Health Care Assistant. I am walking taller and I couldn’t be more grateful.

—Aaron Dodds